Tonight’s bill is a typically eclectic one – ranging from classic thrash through dark sludge to ambient black metal – ensuring a healthy crowd drawn from a wide spectrum of Belfast’s metal community, with the added advantage of it being the beginning of (for many) a long holiday weekend helping to swell the numbers on what would normally be a school night.
Openers Scimitar are one of a number of rising young talents leading the re-emergence of the local thrash scene, and although they are somewhat more restrained than I am used to they nevertheless deliver a tight and well-oiled set. Ryan Atkin once again shows that he is a tremendously talented drummer, fast yet precise, while the rest of the band – bassist Chriz Baird, guitarist John Thompson and vocalist Jonny Gray – work well together, and their material certainly improves with every listen.
War Iron change the mood completely, with their nihilistic barrage of downtuned, double bass sludgy yet progressive doom metal. Their sound is characterized by long, dense instrumental passages, with Dave and Ross (ably supported by drummer Marty) often working more like twin lead guitarists than the traditional perception of bass players, interspersed with guttural utterances from Baggy which sound like they’ve dragged from the depths of Hades by their bollocks! I’ve said before that the Irons are not a band to be taken lightly, and they certainly proved that again tonight.
Having travelled up from Dublin, and arriving halfway through Scimitar’s set, Wizards of Firetop Mountain show no sign of road fatigue, as they make their long overdue return north of the border and launch into their set of heavy, psychedelic doom merged with classic metal and stoner blues. Underpinned by a heavy, driving bass sound, they are tight and passionate – the latter reflected in warm reception which they receive from the highly appreciative audience.
French/US combo Monarch!, making their first visit to this part of the world, build the atmosphere with a long, heavy downstroked drum intro, which slowly evolves into an equally heavy downtuned, ambient bass noise, topped by a mournful dirge of a vocal. By turns haunting, dark, intense and ferocious, it’s hard listening in places but intriguing, even mystifying, and worth persevering with to uncover its underlying, inherent beauty amid the walls of sludgy bass and tantrums of tonsil-ripping vocals.
- War Iron play The Black Heart, Camden, on Saturday April 27th, as part of Desertfest. For more information, visit http://thedesertfest.com/london/